The Rangers tried being kind. They gave the Capitals plenty of chances to pull out a win.
But the Caps couldn't (or wouldn't) take advantage of their opponent's generosity, failing to capitalize on two prime power-play chances late in the game. The result: a 4-3 loss in Game 1.
Alex Ovechkin tallied 13 shots on goal Wednesday night but could only muster two assists. The Rangers' penalty-killing unit, the best in the league during the regular season, stood on its collective head late in the game -- blocking shots, clearing the zone and doing everything possible to beat back the Caps' potent power-play unit.
And in the end, it all came down to goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves, including everything Ovechkin threw his way, while Jose Theodore ... well, he was who we thought he was. He made 17 saves and gave up a few questionable goals. Oh, and that ringing in his ears? That's the reverberation from the posts the Rangers hit after sending shots past the shaky netminder.
So what's next? The Rangers took away home-ice advantage in Game 1. Saturday's Game 2 (on NBC) is hardly a must-win affair for the Caps, but they clearly have to cure their ills.
First and foremost, they have to tighten up their D in front of a stunned Theodore. No one is mistaking the Rangers' offense for that of the Penguins or Red Wings. The Rangers even played Game 1 without Chris Drury, yet still managed to put four goals past Theodore. That's not good.
John Erskine and crew have to clear guys out of the crease so Theodore can focus on the shots. He clearly can't handle traffic in front of him right now, and if he has another game like that, you may start hearing the name Simeon Varlamov.
The Caps also have to find ways to create traffic of their own in front of Lundqvist. Sure, Ovie had 13 shots on goal Wednesday night. That's great and all, but most of those shots came from the left circle when it was just him against the Rangers goalie. No one was causing havoc in front of Lundqvist. And if you let the all-world goalie see the puck, more often than not he's going to stop the puck. It doesn't matter how hard you can shoot it. If Lundqvist has good positioning, it's not getting by him.
Is it time to panic Caps fans? No. But another game like this will start bringing some serious worry.